Does human behavior fascinate you? Think about this for a second...
Dr Robert Cialdini has written some great books about influence, and I've certainly found his case studies fascinating. I got thinking about how this relates to social networking online, with G+ and other networks. And here's something you probably deal with every day without being fully conscious of what's 'pulling your strings'...
So you check in your G+ notifications and see that some complete stranger has added you to their circle, and you're faced with the decision each time to either reciprocate or ignore the person. And that's what I'd like to focus on here.
1) What are some of the factors that help us arrive at those accept/reject decisions?
2) How could we test the impact and comparable weight of each of those factors?
3) How could we use this understanding to improve the decisions we make, i.e. accept and reject with greater discernment, so that we grow better quality circles?
4) How might we use this understanding when approaching strangers ourselves to give us maximum 'acceptability'?.
Cialdini points out that we often rely on the strangest of triggers to save us time in our decision making. If you're not familiar with his work, here's an example...
He presents some research about how a protective mother turkey will furiously attack a stuffed polecat when it is pulled towards the turkey by a string (quite understandable) but when a small tape recorder is hidden inside the stuffed predator, playing cheep-cheep baby turkey sounds, that same protective mother will accept the polecate and gather it under it's wing (really quite strange) until the recording is switched off, when the turkey will once again attack.
In his books Cialdini explores these same 'click-whirr' responses in human behavior situations, and there are many fascinating surprises. (You can learn more here: http://www.influenceatwork.com/
So, back to that social networking question. I'm interested in your thoughts...
How often do you make those decisions without even looking at someone's profile?
In those cases, I think we only have three things to base our decision on:
1) the photograph
2) the name of the stranger
3) the headline description that some people include
Now, as Cialdini points out, some of the most surprising things that influence us are not things that we're actually conscious of (like how we tend to accept people more readily with names - or even just initials - that are similar to ours).
So what I'm looking for here are two things:
Firstly what do you think MIGHT play a part in swaying your own decisions, or at least other people's (since you would never fall for any of this stuff, right?)
and secondly, how do you think any of those suggestions could be properly tested?
Here's a couple of examples of my own:
I rejected someone recently who chose as their headline introduction "I'm a 42 year old tranny" - I guess that was a little too much information for me over my morning cornflakes from a complete stranger who wanted to be accepted as a friend. (Now I'm not making a value statement there, he/she could well be a great person who just happens to get their rocks off in something I have difficulty relating to personally, or maybe it was simply an attempt at humor)
I've just checked through my own accepted list and can see quite a high proportion of photos of white men in business attire, and this is probably something that has played a part in me accepting them as I can relate to their 'visual profile'. (Now I'm not in the slightest but racist and have many friends and family of African and Afro-Caribbean descent, but am I sub-consciously being more responsive to people of a similar profile to me, or is it that I am being approached by more people like that simply because my own profile shows a hint of a suit?)
What are your own thought?